ST. JOSEPH ROMAN CATHOLIC PARISH
606 EAST FOURTH AVE., SAULT STE MARIE MI 49783
St. Joseph Parish made its first church from a former U.S. Army chapel which was moved and remodeled in 1944. The people wasted no time in establishing their south-side parish, organizing many church committees and beginning their own parochial school. About 20 years after the parish was founded, the people of St. Joseph’s banded together to support construction of a new parish complex. With modern facilities and enthusiastic hearts, parishioners continue to build on their faith through parish life.
Founding. Bishop Joseph C. Plagens’ decree establishing St. Joseph Parish became effective Jan. 1, 1941. The new church was started because membership at St. Mary’s in the same city had grown to excessive numbers. Included in St. Joseph’s boundaries would be all those living south of Easterday Avenue between Tenth Street and West Fourth Avenue and south to the boundary of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Brimley. This included about 300 families at the time.
St. Joseph’s first pastor was Father Joseph Seifert. Just prior to establishing the parish, the diocese had purchased property for a new church on Minneapolis Street. Building materials and labor were hard to come by during the years of World War II, so construction was delayed until 1944. For the time being, Mass was held at St. Mary’s, and Father Seifert lived in a house rented by the parish.
Parish Life. Finally, in September 1944, St. Joseph Parish purchased its first church. A former U.S. Army chapel used by troops at the Sault Ste. Marie Military Area at Fort Brady was moved to the church property on Minneapolis Street. A full-length basement had been dug at the site and the structure was lengthened about 20 feet. Parishioners donated much of the labor for the renovations and made generous gifts for furnishings and other improvements.
The church was dedicated Sunday, Feb. 11, 1945. Immediately, parish life began to flourish, with the organization of many church committees and activities. In 1948 a house was purchased for use as a rectory.
The army chapel served the parish well until 1959, when plans got under way for the construction of a new parish complex to include a multipurpose room, rectory and convent. Groundbreaking for the new church, convent and rectory took place in June 1960. The first Mass was celebrated on Holy Saturday, April 1. The church was officially dedicated May 21. The old church was sold and demolished.
In October 1966, the parish celebrated its 25th anniversary. A commemorative Mass and parish dinner marked the milestone.
By 2000 the parish membership had more than doubled to 629 families. Parishioners dedicate their time and talent to the continued growth of St. Joseph’s through participation in many parish organizations and activities.
Parish School. A building fund for St. Joseph’s parochial school was started just a few years after the first church was erected. Bishop Thomas L. Noa blessed the cornerstone for the building Oct. 9, 1949. About one year later, on Oct. 1, 1950, the school’s dedication ceremony took place.
Initially, the school opened to first through sixth graders. One grade was added in each of the two succeeding years. A second floor was completed in 1954. Dominican Sisters from Adrian, Mich., staffed the school. The women of the order lived in a house on the corner of Fifth and Minneapolis streets until a convent was built as part of the new parish complex in 1960.
In 1971 St. Joseph’s School was closed due to financial constraints. The school building continues to be used for religious education programs and waw also rented by community organizations. The school building was demolished in 2010. The school gym serves as a parish hall.
Pastors. Fathers Joseph A. Seifert, 1941-1946; Thomas P. Dunleavy, 1946-1950; Joseph J. Dunleavy, 1950-1952; Thomas P. Dunleavy, 1952-1954; Oliver J. O’Callaghan, 1954-1984; Thomas Wantland, 1984-1985; Donald L. Shiroda, 1986-1993, Pawel J. Mecwel, 1997-2009, Piotr (Peter) F. Zaczynski, 2009-2012, Jose Maramattam, 2012-2015
Fr. Michael Chenier